Alabama professor cites mental defect in university shooting

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 22, 2011 2:08 PM
Alabama professor cites mental defect in university shooting

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - A former biology professor accused of fatally shooting three colleagues during a staff meeting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in court on Thursday.

Amy Bishop, 46, wore a red jumpsuit and bulletproof vest at the hearing in Huntsville. Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann said the Harvard-trained biologist and mother of four will go to trial on murder charges on March 19, 2012.

"Her mind is a major issue," Bishop's attorney Roy Miller told Reuters.

Prosecutors seek the death penalty for Bishop, also accused of wounding three other members of the biology department during what survivors called an execution-style shooting on February 12, 2010.

Colleagues believed Bishop, who allegedly pulled the gun from her purse to start shooting, was angry over the school's denial of tenure. Tenure loss could have ended her teaching career at the university.

After her arrest on murder and attempted murder charges connected to the college shooting, authorities in Braintree, Massachusetts charged Bishop with the 1986 shooting death of her teenage brother.

That death initially was ruled accidental, based on the testimony of the family.

The judge on Thursday unsealed all the court documents associated with the university shooting. The defense had requested the records be kept sealed to avoid influencing possible jurors.

Held without bail, Bishop has lost more than 40 pounds since her arrest, according to Miller.

"I can't go into the reasons why she has lost weight, but I think it makes her look younger," he said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)